My name is Kimberly Zehnder. I am a 20 year old Swiss Softball player. I’ve been playing ball for about 11 years now. Since we don’t have a youth Softball league, I started off playing Baseball with the boys at my local team, the Wittenbach Vikings. I also had the opportunity to go to a U15 and U18 Baseball European Championship. Once I turned 15, I got a message from the nearest Softball Club, the Wil Devils. They asked me if I want to check out a practice and later on join the team. That’s how I ended up playing both Baseball and Softball at a young age. Last spring I even participated at the Team USA Womens Baseball National Team Tryouts in North Carolina.
It wasn’t always easy for me. Our federation never supported me playing both sports. Especially after the U18 competition, they wanted me to only concentrate on Softball but I wanted both. It was hard to stay motivated and to continue playing, knowing that my own federation didn’t support my efforts.
In 2015 I played in my first European Championship with the Swiss Softball National Team and last year we competed in the World Championship in Surrey Canada.
This year I will be playing in the Netherlands. I’ll be playing with the Tex Town Tigers in Enschede. I’m looking forward to learning a lot and improving my Softball skills. My goal is it to bring my experiences and skills back to Switzerland and to help our young team develop for the future.
Softball in Switzerland
Softball is not known in Switzerland and most European countries. That’s why I often just say that I play something similar to Baseball; the ball is bigger, the fields are smaller, and there are a few different rules. A lot of people know Baseball though and are really shocked whenever I tell them that there’s also a Softball league in our country.
Our Federation, Swiss Baseball and Softball Federation, was founded in 1981. We only have one Softball league with 5 Teams competing this year. The top 4 teams make it to the playoffs. The first and fourth placed, and the second and third placed play against each other. The winners make it to the Finals. Since we don’t have a youth Softball league, it’s hard to get younger players into Softball. Most of the girls play Baseball before changing to Softball, and the transition between sports often results in them quitting. Almost all of our Softball Teams are struggling to find juniors.
We never really had tryouts for the National Team until recently. If your skills in Softball were good, you had a good chance to make the team. We used to start practice a few months before the Championship and only meeting once or twice a month.
Our National Team Program is in a rebuilding phase right now. A lot of senior players retired after the World Championship, seeing it as a highlight of their career, and made room for our younger players. We are currently developing a Softball Academy with monthly trainings. Our goal is it to encourage young players to improve. Our intention is, to build a junior team to play at a European tournament.
We will have a young team playing this year at the European Championship. Our goal is it to integrate the young players in this new team and to eventually compete at a higher level. The teams ambition won’t be about the rankings, but more about playing Softball better.